Mendoza School of Business

Transforming Dreams into Data-Driven Realities

Explore the remarkable trajectory of an MSBA graduate from intern to industry leader, fueled by insights, mentorship, and resilience

Author: Angela Sienko and Bryan Fields

Share to:

Rongbin (Robin) Ye (MSBA ’20) has an aptitude for converting data into insights. While working on his master’s degree in international economics and conflict management from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in 2018-2019, Ye leveraged his analytical skills, interning as a data analyst for non-governmental organizations in Washington, D.C., an experience that provided him with valuable insights into employing more objective measuring methods when it came to public policy.

Robin Ye (MSBA ’20)

However, a chance field trip to the United Nations put Ye on a career path he never expected. While on the trip, Ye identified a critical flaw in prevalent analytical models widely used in measuring the validity and effectiveness of policies, in this case, econometrics models and sociology models, in the public policy sector.

Many of these models relied on potentially biased criteria and analytical methodologies to supplement business insights rather than effectively guiding businesses. This realization sparked Ye’s desire to delve deeper into the realm of analytics to understand the best way to utilize data to drive strategy and create value for organizations in the public policy sector.

“In its simplest terms, I realized that incorporating more quantitative analysis into policy analysis could be immensely beneficial,” Ye said.

This experience led Ye to the Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) program at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. Little did he anticipate that this choice would satisfy his analytical curiosity and connect him with the extensive and dedicated Notre Dame alumni network — ultimately enriching his career and life.

Attending Notre Dame had long been a dream for Ye. A big fan of the movie “Rudy,” Ye said he wanted to attend Notre Dame since his days as an undergraduate. When he learned about the comprehensive nature of Notre Dame’s MSBA program, he was determined to join the cohort. “The curriculum design takes you from simply understanding data and basic stats to understanding how to use tools to solve real-life problems,” he said. “The program shaped me from a newbie with zero knowledge in [programming language] R and Python into a market-ready candidate with solid coding skills, vast machine learning knowledge, and persuasive storytelling abilities.”

While the MSBA curriculum impressed Ye, the faculty made the most significant impact on him. He recalled how Sharif Nijim, the academic co-director of the MSBA program, was particularly influential, encouraging him to participate in academic competitions and special projects to build his storytelling skills with Adobe Analytics. This tool allows you to mix, match, and analyze data from any digital point in a customer’s journey to build better customer experiences.

When it came to understanding how to improve the responsible use of technologies, Ye said Scott Nestler, adjunct associate teaching professor of IT, Analytics, and Operations (ITAO), shared his extensive knowledge of the industry’s compliance, regulations and ethics, which later became a primary function of Ye’s daily job.

But it was Seth Berry, the academic co-director of the program and ITAO associate teaching professor, who Ye said made the most significant impact. “I consider Professor Berry to be my mentor,” Ye said. “He taught me how to build an end-to-end data pipeline that transforms chaotic, dirty data from all sources into usable insights and demonstrated solid statistical evidence supporting the findings and suggestions. That really impressed me.”

Just as Ye was getting excited about pursuing an analytics career after graduation, the COVID-19 pandemic closed down much of the world. Originally from China, Ye had to quarantine alone in America, leaving him feeling isolated and helpless. To make matters worse, the pandemic caused many employers to freeze their hiring practices, compounding Ye’s concerns about finding a job.

“The market was difficult, and there weren’t many job opportunities available for new graduates,” Ye recalled. “I also felt like I had a weak résumé that mainly included school projects and competitions, so I didn’t feel like I was in a competitive position against other candidates.” That’s when Ye learned about the power of the Notre Dame alumni network.

“I started reaching out to different alumni across different industries and received a lot of helpful advice about how to improve my résumé,” Ye said. “I had one alum tell me, ‘I have no open positions at my department, but let me look up other opportunities in the firm.’ That really moved me. It made me so proud to be a part of the Notre Dame community.”

Ye found a contract data analyst position for Freddie Mac in Virginia, but it didn’t last long. He was laid off in late 2020 – something that caused him to lose his confidence and faith.

“It was one of the most difficult times of my life,” he said. That’s when he reached out to his former professor, Seth Berry. “Not only did he provide me emotional support, but he also invited me to help him run code in his campus laboratory on Saturdays,” Ye said. “He allowed me to work with him on an optical recognition project he was leading.”

That process helped Ye sharpen his Python skills, in which he would collect and clean the raw data for deep-learning analysis. It also allowed Ye to get hands-on experience with deep-learning concepts – something that not only built a deeper understanding of modeling and data pipelining but also enriched his résumé.

In addition to building his skills, the experience built Ye’s confidence. In the span of a few months, he landed a job as a senior data science analyst at Discover Financial Services in Chicago. Today, he serves as the assistant vice president of Credit Model Development at Synchrony Bank.

Reflecting on his experience, Ye likened his interactions with Notre Dame faculty and alumni to “sparks that brightened his gloomiest days.”

“The value of the Notre Dame MSBA program is incalculable,” Ye said. “I initially came here to build coding skills and develop my analytical capabilities, but there is so much more to this place. The spirit of Notre Dame lies in its vast network of alumni and the rest of the community who strive to make the world better.”

Learn more about the Notre Dame MSBA program and discover where your analytics career can take you.

Mendoza School of Business